Kiss Me I'm Nearly Irish!
"If You're Lucky Enough to be Irish, Then You're Lucky Enough!"
Céad Míle Fáilte a chairde! Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Dhuit!
(Translation from Irish: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes Friends! Happy St. Patricks Day!)
We Have Some Great News To Share With You All!
If you have been following our story, you are gonna love this!
After going to bed for nearly a thousand nights, wondering what our future will hold and if we will be permitted to stay in Ireland, and wrestling with anxiety, worry, and uncertainty as to whether or not I’m doing the best thing for Ari, I can finally rest.
There was a knock at my door on a rainy Tuesday morning, the final week of February and I hopped up from my desk, happily remembering the Lionel Messi jersey that Ari begged me to buy after Argentina won the World Cup back in December. It had taken so long to be delivered that I had nearly forgotten about it. When I opened the door and saw a brown legal-sized envelope rather than a bag or a box, I became nervous. My heart sank when the postman tucked the envelope under his arm and extended instead a signature pad and pen after confirming that I indeed am Bridget McGinty. Handing over the weighty envelope he looked at me with sympathetic eyes and wished me luck!
Examining the stamps and labels as I brought it inside, I cleared a place for it on my desk, and thought to myself, ‘What if this is bad? What if I finally have a chance to get my foot in the door at the Jameson Distillery, (where I had an interview scheduled for the next day) and I can’t renew my work authorization?” I had let it expire, thinking that my Substack Newsletter was going to attract enough paid subscribers to pay my bills or that I’d have a book deal by now! Ah, “The optimism of a novice…!”
Weeks earlier I had begun looking for work and realized that even my temporary residency card had expired. I renewed it quickly and then used it to request that my Access to the Labour Market be restored. ‘Was I asking for too much, too soon? Did I rock the boat? Are we being deported?’
The first page of the document confirmed my worst fears. It reiterated the decision to deny us protection and concluded by saying:
‘I must therefore inform you that, under section 47(5) of the International Protection Act 2015, the Minister is refusing to give you refugee or subsidiary protection declaration. If you were issued a permission to access the labour market, this is no longer valid and must be returned to the Minister immediately.’
In a state of panic, I grasped the smaller envelope that had fallen out onto my desk when I pulled out the forms that I had just begun reading. I hoped to God it wasn’t our passports, but it was, signifying that the decision in our case is final. This was not how I wanted to be reunited with our US passports which we had to surrender in October of 2020. I pictured them being handed back to us by a uniformed garda, who would then shake our hands and say, “Welcome to Ireland!” in a tearfully joyful ceremony in Dublin!
I felt a lump form in my throat, ‘Are we being asked to leave?’ I wondered, feeling like I was about to vomit. I held my soured stomach and read on, turning to the second page which also seemed to be loaded with negative connotations. Seeing words like refusal and failure to comply and strictly enforced, had me rattled, skimming so quickly that I could comprehend nothing. Images of everything Ari and I have built here from scratch collapsed and crumbled in my mind; our family of friends and neighbors, our home, Ari’s school, and sports teams, and my home office and the house plant I bought when I was allowed to apply for Permission to Remain and suddenly felt confident that it would be granted. There was a date written in blue ink that stood out on the page; 23/02/2026. I wondered what any of this would matter in the year 2026. I resolved to take a deep breath and begin reading the page again but from the top this time!
‘You were previously informed by the IPO that the Minister had decided to refuse you permission to remain in the State under Section 49 of the 2015 Act. However, this decision was reviewed under section 49(7) because you submitted further relevant information. Having considered this information, the Minister has decided, pursuant to section 49(4)(a) of the 2015 Act, to grant you permission to remain in the State until 23/02/2026. A statement of reasons for this decision is enclosed.’
I had to reread it a couple of times to be sure I wasn’t imagining things, then finally, I dropped to the floor, emotionally exhausted and overcome with joy and relief. I shook and slowly began to cry tears that felt like they were coming from my belly. I crawled on the floor over to the pictures of Jesus and Mary, which have probably hung in this sitting room since before I was born and I climbed up the wall. Standing before these quintessentially Irish religious icons, the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart, I gently touched each of the frames, whispering ‘Thank You’ about a dozen times, the tears, heavier and faster, streaking down my cheeks, making my nose run and my lips salty.
“After the final no, there comes a yes / And on that yes the future world depends.”
Slowly I returned to my desk and to the box of kleenex and I read on. There was a list of conditions, laid out rather sternly, followed by instructions on how and where to register, stating that failure to do so promptly ‘will be considered to constitute a failure to comply with the laws of the State and may constitute in itself a ground for withdrawing or not renewing your permission to be in the State.’
It was still too early to call my sister Erin in the US, who so deserved to be the first to know, as I could not have done any of this without her, so I put on my runners and headed down to the garda (police) station to make an appointment to register as soon as possible!
Walking through the picturesque back alleys that lead to town, lined with stone walls and colorful gates hiding tiny homes some with smoke rising from their chimneys or the wash blowing in the wind, hung across their rear gardens, everything looked the same as always, but it didn’t feel the same.
Listening to the spring song of the robins and the pesky squawks of the crows and our neighborhood crane (aptly named Frazier!), I wanted to tell them, that the sadness they may have seen around the edges of my smile when I looked at them is gone now because I won’t have to miss them like I thought I might. I passed the giant storefront framing the Supervalu registers and cashiers who all know me and a bit of my story and I wanted to knock on the glass and get everyone’s attention then mouth the words, ‘I’m staying! I’m allowed to stay!’ and mime my feelings of gratefulness and euphoria.
Cutting across the town square where there is a Farmers Market every Saturday, I dared to picture myself having a business and feeding people once again! By the time I walked into the garda station, I must’ve looked like a toddler who desperately needed to pee! I was so antsy and excited, I could’ve burst! When an officer finally appeared at the desk and asked if he could help me, I just exploded with jubilance, “I JUST GOT PERMISSION TO REMAIN IN IRELAND AND I AM HERE TO REGISTER !” I was practically yelling and jumping up and down. He looked at me like I was crazy and said rather plainly, “So you’d like to make an appointment with immigration, ok, I’ll just go and get the book.” It seemed a bit out of character for an Irishman to show no interest in my story and to leave me alone in my excitement, thankfully when he returned he indulged me with laughter and a bit of congratulatory enthusiasm.
After taking the first available appointment which was April 3rd, I popped over to O’Farrell & Sons Auctioneers, hoping to find Martin, to tell him the good news, and thank him for selling me my house! Obviously, owning a home helped to bolster my case and prove my commitment to Ireland. He opened the door only slightly asking, “Yer not lookin to sell the house already are ye?” When I burst with the news, we threw the door open wide, shook my hand, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Well let me be the first to congratulate you and welcome you to Ireland on a permanent basis!” I practically skipped out of his office and up the main road to The Railway Inn, the pub nearest to my house, to have a drink to calm me down and to celebrate of course!
I have highlighted the number 3 in the paragraph above because it just keeps popping up bringing me all kinds of luck, making it my new favorite number! It was when Ari was three years old that my dream of moving to Ireland became an action plan. In July we will have been here 3 years. Number 3 is also my address, and it is the number of years we have just been given Permission to Remain.
In researching for the position of Brand Ambassador for Jameson Whiskey, which I applied for on February 23rd, I discovered that the number three is very special to the company. To even be called Irish Whiskey, the whiskey must have been barrel-aged in a wooden cask for a minimum of three years, although Jameson ages their whiskey no less than four years. The Founder, John Jameson, who died on December 3rd, 1823, believed that to make an exceptionally smooth whiskey, it had to be triple distilled. In 1966, three companies merged to form the Irish Distillers Group, John Jameson, Cork Distillers, and John Powers. (I interviewed for the position by the way but was not hired, sadly, or maybe luckily, only time will tell!)
St. Patrick’s Day falls on the third week of the third month and this is the year 2023! Of course, it was St. Patrick who used the three leaves of a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity; God the Father, Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit. It was not uncommon for St. Patrick to incorporate nature into his teachings. The Irish that he sought to convert to Christianity were mostly pagans who worshipped nature, particularly the sun and it is believed that St. Patrick combined the symbol of the sun, with the holiest symbol of Christianity, giving us the Celtic Cross. By linking these symbols he appealed to a broader audience.
Maybe there is a lesson here: by incorporating ideas old and new and combining various forms of worship, you can convert a great many people to lead more meaningful lives, mindful that an afterlife may ensue where they will be judged on how they lived on Earth and how they treated one another.
I’m thinking of this in my own life and in culinary terms, of course; Religion as the perfect meal! Christianity will always be at the center of my plate. It is my main, my go-to, although I find elements of it can be tough, bland, or hard to swallow at times. So, I would spice things up by incorporating those ingredients that make other religions so appealing. I’d learn the techniques that work for them and that they find so tasty.
Perhaps I’d start off with Sikhism which would set the tone for the evening nicely, providing some excellent talking points and creating a safe space for all religions to practice and to be heard. Then I’d present my main with a formidable side of Islam, which holds up well to Christianity, and they’d be there side by side discovering how much they have in common and wondering why they always fight. There would be an array of side dishes and dipping sauces, religions less familiar but definitely worth a try!
Finishing out the evening would be rich and layered bittersweet slices of Hinduism and Buddhism, evoking contemplative thoughts on the afterlife, leaving everyone just that much closer to achieving nirvana.
In the end, everyone would go their separate ways, returning to the God they’ve known and loved from the start but, drawing from St. Patrick’s most famous teaching, they would feel full and inspired and they would see that all of these concepts and all of their followers are really just one entity, one love, and one people!
I live an hour away from the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, which was the seat of ancient Irish kings for seven centuries. Around 450 AD, St. Patrick himself came here to convert King Aenghus to Christianity in a ceremony that was a bit of a disaster! According to legend Saint Patrick accidentally drove the sharp iron spike at the end of his crozier (ceremonial staff) through the foot of the king who remained silent thinking it was all just a part of the ceremony! Ah yes, he was already well on his way to understanding Christianity!
A modern-day St. Patrick would likely be admonished for trying to convert native Irish Pagans to Christianity. He would be sent to sensitivity training and would be forced to learn about diversity and inclusion! Amazingly though, he may have inadvertently given us the template to erase hatred and exclusion.
On the day we honor him, EVERYONE is IRISH, universally! What a wonderful thing it would be to celebrate EVERY race, culture, religion, and way of life the way we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! Designating just one day a year for each, to imagine ourselves as who we are honoring and to fully embrace and enthusiastically celebrate their history, struggles, achievements, song, dance, and food with a parade and a party, and a day off from work! It did wonders for the Irish!
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To celebrate our news I want to share a story I wrote, at the urging of John O’Brien Jr., the editor of the Ohio Irish American Newspaper, at a time when my dream was just as real as pixie dust!
What’s in a Name
What’s in a Name?
by Bridget McGinty
I was never one to ask your last name and I’d hardly ever tell you mine. McGinty was a tough name to live up to, and an impossible name to escape from. I was the second oldest of six children, sandwiched between a perfect older sister Megan, and an all-American athlete brother Brian, followed by Molly, Erin and Maggie.
Megan and I shared a bedroom and a dresser growing up and it was covered in medals and trophies, mostly from Irish dance, some from sports and academics, but all hers. Had they given awards for best comebacks toward teachers, most creative hairstyles or most disruptive in class, perhaps I would have had some brass to show off as well.
Brian’s dresser was much the same, but strictly sports trophies, plaques, medals and team pictures. People who knew my siblings and my parents expected great things from me and were often disappointed.
Getting in trouble was easier with a name like McGinty, everyone knew someone in my family and would be more than happy to provide a detailed report of my deviant activities, from smoking and drinking to shoplifting and cutting school.
The only real interest I had back then was in busting out on my own. The thing I wanted most as a child was to be eighteen! As I suspected, that’s when my life really began making sense.
Living by my own rules, I found my people and I found my passion, and it all revolved around food! As happy as I was in the restaurant business, I still heard the call of the wild, to bust out on my own.
I had to do it my way, and for the last eighteen years, with the help of many family members and friends, I’ve had the privilege to do just that! Tastebuds Restaurant in Cleveland’s Downtown/Chinatown neighborhood opened on my thirtieth birthday and has been cranking out tastier, healthier, faster lunches Monday through Friday, 11am until 2pm ever since.
My younger sister, Erin McGinty-Perk, has been with me as a silent partner, helping to develop and grow the business since its inception in 2001. In fact, it was Erin who named Tastebuds after a restaurant in Newport Ireland that we nearly crashed into after renting a car and driving for the first time in Ireland in 1997, back when we were young and naïve enough to think almost crashing was hilarious!
As I prepare to ascend to my new career as a writer and pursue my dream of moving to Ireland, I will be stepping back, behind the scenes. Erin will be taking the spotlight and center stage and I have the utmost confidence that Tastebuds will thrive under her leadership! Erin loves providing exceptional service and has made extraordinary hospitality her passion!
My passion has not changed, except that I wish to write about my experience in the restaurant business and trust me, none of it is dull or boring. It would be impossible to give these stories their proper telling if I didn’t step away. Remembering Tastebuds fondly, and missing Cleveland terribly will give me clarity, help me to write and will give me that “abiding sense of tragedy” that will sustain me “through temporary periods of joy” that Yeats spoke of!
It is the call of the Wild Atlantic Way that I’ve been hearing, a whisper at first, then louder with each passing year. The first time I heard it, I was twenty-seven years old, smoking a cigarette on a boardwalk in Cobh, Ireland. I was standing near the last port of call of the Titanic, just after viewing the exhibit.
I was crying, imagining how the sadness of leaving home, leaving Ireland must have turned toward anticipation and excitement of coming to America and then absolute horror when the Titanic began to sink. A man approached me asking to bum a fag. He noticed my tears and asked in a thick Irish brogue what I was thinking about.
I told him I was thinking mostly about the brave young women of Ireland that left unaccompanied, unaware and unsure what was waiting for them in America. After a long silence, both of us smoking, contemplating the water, he said “Ah, so you’re a Yank then?”
I nodded the guilty apologetic yes that feels like confession when speaking to a native, and he told me that long ago, one of my ancestors had made a terrible mistake and it was up to me to make things right again. He said I need to be brave and board a big ship and sail back to Ireland for good next time! As he walked away, he turned to laugh and said, “Just please Miss, if you do… mind the icebergs!”
I laughed and didn’t give that conversation another thought until recently. It’s funny, words like that seem to swirl around the subconscious like pixie dust waiting for you to believe in their magic.
When I was nineteen years old a generous and kind restaurateur, John Minillo, whom I worked for at Ninth Street Grill in the Galleria, told me I would own a restaurant someday. That thought was just as absurd to me at 19 years old, as moving to Ireland was at 27!
The birth of my son Ari five years ago inspired me to get serious about moving to Ireland. Ari spent his first Christmas there, clapping along to live music in the pubs and singing to sheep from the car window as we drove from town to town, castle to abbey.
We boarded the Christmas train and visited Santa at The Westport House. We rode the merry-go-round, did our shopping and drank hot cocoa at the Christmas Market in Galway. The spell was cast, and I returned the following May for The Literary Festival of Food and Wine at the famed Ballymaloe School of Cookery, where I met Darina Allen and her generous and welcoming family. Again, and this time in Cork, I found my people, I found my passion, and it all revolved around food, and this time, it included writing.
My whole life, I’ve been fighting for my independence, wanting desperately to express myself, and have people bust through my rugged nature to see the beauty inside. Is that not the embodiment of Ireland? Here I am, being called to Cork, the Rebel City! And for the first time in my life, I see my last name as an asset.
I long to hear “Now, which McGinty are you?”, to which I will proudly answer, “I am the McGinty that’s bringing her name back to Ireland, hoping to serve her well, hoping she will allow me to call her home after all these years away.”
And here we are THREE years later…. and SHE SAID YES!!!
It has been a long hard road, but we made it and we are nearly Irish! We will be eligible for citizenship once we have lived here for five years and we are more than halfway there! Our Permission to Remain is good for three years, which puts us safely in the position to apply as legal permanent residents. Feeling triply blessed, having received grace, mercy and peace, there’s no need to search for any four-leaf clovers, three leaves have brought us all the luck we need!
Thank you so much for all of your kind and generous support! With all of this behind us, and with me sleeping more soundly, you can expect to see lots more exciting stories and recipes. I’m not sure if it’s new to Substack, but I discovered a way to post videos and I hope that you enjoyed Ari’s performance yesterday! Who knows, I may surprise you with a cooking demo if I can work up the nerve!
Now off you go! That Corned Beef and Cabbage isn’t going to eat itself! In the words St. Patrick said never, “Go forth and Get Pissed!”
Go Raibh Maith Agaibh as a Bheith Anseo a Chairde!
(Translation from Irish: Thank You For Being Here My Friends!)